Home inspections can be private or open. An open home inspection is usually conducted on a weekend. As the name implies, your home will be open to the general public. Your real estate agent will be at your home throughout the day to answer questions and take leads.
There are pros and cons to open homes. Showing your home to the widest number of potential buyers can help you sell your home faster and fetch a better price. However, you need to take precautions because anyone can enter your home. You and your real estate agent can't know what their real intentions may be.
Conducting open homes
In most cases, it's better for homeowners not to be on the premises during open homes inspections. Your real estate agent will be on the premises throughout the day, but they can become preoccupied with talking to individuals who express an interest in your property.
While it's not likely that someone will steal a large object like a television, you want to be sure you don't leave smaller valuables in the home. People will not just be taking a cursory look in your rooms. Some will open cupboards and drawers. If they see something of value, some will be tempted to steal it.
You also want to present your home in its best light. That may require some expenditures. Home buyers want to see a home they feel like they can move into. While renovations can feel like an expense, when you're selling your home, think of them as investments. The right renovations can add far more than their cost to the value of your property.
Some of the most important things you can do before an open home include:
- Your garden should look tidy and well cared for
- The interior should be sparkling clean. The cost of a professional cleaning service can pay big dividends
- Clutter in the house makes it look smaller and uncared for. Get rid of clutter
- Buyers want homes that look light and airy. Consider painting dark walls a light, neutral colour
- The kitchen is one of the most important rooms in the house. Buyers will be put off by an old or untidy kitchen. Read How to Stage Your Kitchen for an Open House for some tips.
For more details, read 7 Steps to Prepare for an Open House Inspection. The final tip in the article is "enlist expert guidance." Your real estate agent is an expert at selling homes and can tell you where your home may need improvement. They may also be able to recommend a home staging professional in your area.
Home staging is a relatively new phenomenon in Australia, but it becoming more popular as sellers discover that a home staging professional can add up to 10 percent to a property's sale value. As a homeowner, you may not notice some things that can put buyers off. A home staging professional is more objective and knows the local market.
How much does a home stager cost? covers the costs involved in home staging. You can choose between a consultation or allow the home stager to do the job for you. Depending on the services you choose and the size of your house, you may pay as little as $200 for a consultation to up to around $4000 to style a four-bedroom home.
Preparing with your agent in advance
An experienced real estate agent will have conducted dozens of open homes in the past. You will want to start preparing for your open home inspection well in advance, so make it a priority. They will be able to tell you what you need to do before the date. That may involve some renovations, so you will need time to get your home ready for inspection.
Real estate agents know from experience what buyers are looking for. They should be honest with you when they discuss your options. While you might not like hearing that your fuchsia coloured walls will put buyers off, their job is to be objective and fetch the highest possible selling price.
You will also want to discuss the marketing of your home. No one will go to your open home if they don't know about it. You may have to pay some of the advertising costs, so you want to know in advance what they will be.
Should you be present during the open home process? This is a contentious issue. Some say the homeowner can make potential buyers feel uncomfortable. Others believe homeowners give buyers a chance to talk to them directly. Talk to your real estate agent about the pros and cons of you being on-site.
If you want to be on your property, they can't stop you, but can give you tips to ensure you don't do anything to put buyers off. For example:
- You don't want to be too pushy during an open inspection. Be available, but let people approach you
- You can show interested parties how a room in the house can be repurposed. For example, if you use a spare bedroom as a home office, you can point out that it was originally a bedroom
- You can get valuable feedback from potential buyers. They may have questions or a complaint about your home. Thank them for their feedback rather than go on the defensive.
Showing a property when it's tenanted
If you're not selling your family home, you may be selling an investment property that is still tenanted. This can be a tricky situation. Your tenant may not be as keen for you to sell the property as you are or may resent having to open their doors to the public.
You can overcome the negatives by giving tenants advance notice of the open home date. In most states, 24 hours is the minimum, but that may not be enough time for your tenants to adjust or prepare the home or apartment for an open inspection.
You also need to be sensitive to their feelings. A tenant will be more willing to help if you offer them some sort of compensation. You could:
- Reduce their rent for the duration of the sale period with the understanding that they will keep the premises neat and presentable.
- Offer one week's free rent if you are having a one day open home inspection. Again, they should compensate you by making the home presentable.
- Reassure tenants that they will not have to vacate the home after the sale.
- Offer to pay for cleaning services if needed.
- If the tenant has a pet, you may want to find a kennel for the pet to stay in. This should be at your expense.
There is also a positive side to having a tenant. Many buyers will be looking for an investment property. If the home has a good tenant, buyers will be reassured that they have a tenant from the date of settlement.
You will be receiving rent throughout the selling process. This will help your finances and help make up for some of the selling costs.
For more information and to find out about requirements for vacating the property if that is your preference, read Selling Your Property While it's Tenanted.
What should you expect from a real estate agent during the open home process?
A real estate agent should be well-versed in the open home process. They will tell you everything you need to know well in advance and offer suggestions to make your home more appealing to buyers.
It is also their responsibility to advertise open homes inspections. They should go beyond the minimum and advertise online, in local papers and have a prominent display at their office.
On the day of the open home inspection, your real estate agent should be on your property from before you open your home for inspection until you close your doors at the end of the day. There may be more than one party inspecting your home at any given time. A good real estate agent will know how to make them all feel welcome and be able to answer their questions.
What marketing materials and tools should your real estate agent have handy on the day?
Many potential buyers will be making a day of it. They will inspect several properties on the same day. The only way they will remember your property is if they can take a flyer or pamphlet home with them.
A flyer can be a single page. It should have a flattering photograph of your home and list all the important selling points. A pamphlet should have even more photos and information.
A flyer or pamphlet will be your most important selling tool. It should be professionally printed on glossy paper and have crisp, clear images. The text should be short, but include all the major selling points. At the end of the day, potential buyers will review the information they picked up. A professional presentation will impress them more than a cheap photocopy.
Flyers and pamphlets should be prominently displayed in the house. Rather than leave them in one place, make sure you display them in the kitchen, the living room and the master bedroom. This way, no one will overlook them and will naturally pick one up to take with them.
Signs your agent is doing a great job
Your agent is doing a great job if they don't overlook any of the important aspects of open homes. In brief:
- They should give you plenty of advance notice and advice
- They should contact you well in advance of the date to make sure you're ready
- They should advertise in advance of the day
- They should come with all the marketing materials
- They should behave professionally throughout the day of the inspection
Your agent is doing a great job if they take your open home as seriously as you do. You should rely on them for their expertise and not have to ask them for any information. A good real estate agent will do their utmost to make sure you and your home are ready for the open home day.
How to get the most out of your open home
Hosting an open house day will be more successful if you plan ahead and aren't afraid to invest in your home. While renovations, cleaning services, landscaping, home staging and advertising are expenses, they have been proven to be solid investments that can give you a great return on your investment.
How much you have to spend on renovations will depend on the condition of your house. Getting your home looking its best before an open inspection is a step-by-step guide to getting the most out of your open home. After you've done your preliminary work, don't forget to follow the advice offered in "Just before an inspection" at the conclusion of the article. Those final jobs will make the difference between a successful open home and one that might not attract as many buyers as you would like.